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FRANZ JOSEPH GALL (1758-1828)

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Originally appearing in Volume V11, Page 412 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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FRANZ JOSEPH GALL (1758-1828), anatomist, physiologist, and founder of phrenology (q.v.), was born'at Tiefenbrunn near Pforzheim, Baden, on the 9th of March 1758. After completing the usual literary course at Baden and Bruchsal, he began the study of medicine under J. Hermann (1738–1800) at Strassburg, whence, attracted by the names of Gerhard van Swieten (1700–1772) and Maximilian Stoll (1742–1788), he removed to Vienna in 1781. Having received his diploma, he began to practise as a physician there in 1785; but his energies were mainly devoted to the scientific investigation of problems which had occupied his attention from boyhood. At a comparatively early period he formed the generalization that in the human subject at least a powerful memory is invariably associated with prominent eyes; and further observation enabled him, as he thought, also to define the external characteristics indicative of special talents for painting, music and the mechanical arts. Following out these researches, he gradually reached the strong conviction, not only that the talents and dispositions of men are dependent upon the functions of the brain, but also that they may be inferred with perfect exactitude and precision from the external appearances of the skull. Gall's first appearance as an author was made in 1791, when he published the first two chapters of a (never completed) work entitled Philosophisch-medicinische Untersuchungen fiber Natur u. Kunst im kranken u. gesunden Zustande des Menschen. The first public notice of his inquiries in cranioscopy, however, was in the form of a letter addressed to a friend, which appeared in C. M. Wieland's Deutscher Mercur in 1798; but two years previously he had begun to give private courses of phrenological lectures in Vienna, where his doctrines soon attracted general attention, and met with increasing success until, in 1802, they were interdicted by the government as being dangerous to religion. This step on the part of the authorities had the effect of greatly stimulating public curiosity and increasing Gall's celebrity. In March 18o5 he finally left Vienna in company with his friend and associate J. C. Spurzheim, and made a tour through Germany, in the course of which he lectured in Berlin, Dresden, Magdeburg and several of the university towns. His expositions, which he knew how to make popular and attractive, were much cohesion, and little has been added to what he ascertained on the question of transverse strains and the strength of beams, first brought by him within the scope of mechanical theory. In his Discorso intorno alle core the stanno su l'acqua, published in 1612, he used the principle of virtual velocities to demonstrate the more important theorems of hydrostatics, deducing from it the equilibrium of fluid in a siphon, and proved against the Aristotelians that the floating of solid bodies in a liquid depends not upon their form, but upon their specific gravities relative to such liquid. In order to form an adequate estimate of the stride made by Galileo in natural philosophy, it would be necessary to enumerate the confused and erroneous opinions prevailing on all such subjects in his time. His best eulogium, it hasbeen truly said, consists in the fallacies which he exposed. The scholastic distinctions between corruptible and incorruptible substances, between absolute gravity and absolute levity, between natural and violent motions, if they did not wholly disappear from scientific phraseology, ceased thenceforward to hold the place of honour in the controversies of the learned. Discarding these obscure and misleading notions, Galileo taught that gravity and levity are relative terms, and that all bodies are heavy, even those which, like the air, are invisible; that motion is the result of force, instantaneous or continuous; that weight is a continuous force, attracting towards the centre of the earth; that, in a vacuum, all bodies would fall with equal velocities; that the " inertia of matter " implies the continuance of motion, as well as the permanence of rest; and that the substance of the heavenly bodies is equally " corruptible " with that of the earth. These simple elementary ideas were eminently capable of development and investigation, and were not only true but the prelude to further truth; while those they superseded defied inquiry by their vagueness and obscurity. Galileo was a man born in due time. He was superior to his contemporaries, but not isolated amongst them. He represented and intensified-a growing tendency of the age in which he lived. It was beginning to be suspected that from Aristotle an appeal lay to nature, and some were found who no longer treated the ipse dixit of the Stagirite as the final authority in matters of science. A vigorous but ineffectual warfare had already been waged against the blind traditions of the schools by Ramus and Telesius, by Patricius and Campanella, and the revolution which Galileo completed had been prepared by his predecessors. Nevertheless, the task which he so effectually accomplished demanded the highest and rarest quality of genius. He struck out for himself the happy middle path between the a priori and the empirical systems, and exemplified with brilliant success the method by which experimental science has wrested from nature so many of her secrets. His mind was eminently practical. He concerned himself above all with what fell within the range of exact inquiry, and left to others the larger but less fruitful speculations which can never be brought to the direct test of experiment. Thus, while far-reaching but hasty generalizations have had their day and been forgotten, his work has proved permanent, because he made sure of its foundations. His keen intuition of truth, his vigour and yet sobriety of argument, his fertility of illustration and acuteness of sarcasm, made him irresistible to his antagonists; and the evanescent triumphs of scornful controversy have given place to the sedate applause of a long-lived posterity. The first complete edition of Galileo's writings was published at Florence (1842–1856), in 16 8vo vols., under the supervision of Signor Eugenio Alberi. Besides the works already enumerated, it contained the Sermones de mote, gravium composed at Pisa between 1589 and 1591; his letters to his friends, with many of their replies, as well as several of the essays of his scientific opponents; his laudatory comments on the Orlando Furioso, and depreciatory notes on the Gerusalemme Liberata, some stanzas and sonnets of no great merit, together with the sketch of a comedy; finally, a reprint of Viviani's Life, with valuable notes and corrections. The original documents from the archives of the Inquisition, relating to the events of 1616 and 1633, recovered from Paris in 1846 by the efforts of Count Rossi, and now in the Vatican Library, were to a limited extent made public by Monsignor Marino-Marini in 185o, and more unreservedly by M. Henri de l'Epinois, in an essay entitled August 1828.
End of Article: FRANZ JOSEPH GALL (1758-1828)
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